Whatever microtonal psychoacoustics are, they’re here. This comes along with otherworld groove, industrial noise, odd-time rock and “musique concrète”. This strange sounding combo with a theme based on isolation in the surveillance all adds up to fun, apparently. Without listening to it, nothing adds up to anything.
Fun isn’t word I used to describe the opening title piece, a droning soundscape akin to distorted Tibetan chants. This gives way to cosmic heaviness, which to be fair we were also promised. Still no fun. Obscure and frightening, I’d say. A few hallucinations and a bit of experimental heaviness later, it stops. I quickly realised it was going to be waste of time looking for any sort of thread apart from electronic insanity, so the best thing to do is to enjoy the moment. And along came a jolly toe-tapping groove-laden piece of dark electronica called “Wait till Mornin’”. The start of “Haunted on the Uptake” starts like my gas boiler on a bad day, but tētēma soon let loose, that is ever they were shackled. This avant garde jazz death fusion chaos has similarities in concept to Ephel Duath. Prepare to be challenged. Calypso next obviously, well for a little bit, and then a strange microtonal (good word) soul song, followed by inverted death metal and a few haunting nightmares. So all standard stuff really. Only joking. To bring us back to reality for a moment tētēma is the project of electronicist Anthony Pateras and Mike Patton, the 8 octave singer of Faith No More and Mr Bungle as well as being a film composer and video game voice. It all adds up … sort of.
This album had me on tenterhooks, wondering what on earth was going to come along next. I was tempted to play it in random order, but sticking the script, I was treated to the psychedelic, spaced out, death scream electro cosmos of “Milked Out Million”. Now we’re having fun. “Soliloquy” is a rather unsatisfying artistic electro fest, but I did like the accompany description of it so I’ll repeat it here: “microtonal buchla with hyperactive drumming to serenade Paganini and Leonard Cohen passed out in a hot tub. This track is like pressing fast forward on both a Scelsi and Yasunao Tone CD on different systems pointed at each other”. I would have said the same but … Is this Ephel Duath’s “Pain Remixes the Known” I’m hearing? No it’s a short trippy hoppy soundalike called “Flatliner’s Owl”. Oh yes, and we haven’t heard anything yet that sounds like a combination of Was Not Was and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Out come the freaks and with it the bizarre shuddery electro soundscape “Dead Still”, childlike vocals, more microtones and no doubt a few oompah loompahs in the vicinity. The official version: “It’s a meditation on facile internet culture and misplaced ambition delivered over close-miked prepared piano, giallo synth/pizzicato lines, and stratospheric children’s rounds. Ya. Genius or madness? I say genius at this point. After the drony “Invertebrate”, it’s the jazzy “We’ll Talk Inside a Dream”. I hear that Was Not Wasness again. It’s not about feeling better than James Brown, but it’s that way inclined. “We’ll Talk Inside a Dream” is a tingly stream of consciousness. This isn’t the dream but what’s going around inside. The little bit of trip-hop at the end enhances the already surreal mood. Watery electronic sounds start the nightmarish sound distortions of “Sun Undone”. By this stage it would have surprised me to hear anything normal. Patton’s vocals are just amazing. He’s there but he’s not there. The sun is being undone amid industrial horror. Initially it’s slivers of horror and not complete destruction, but as it advances in disintegration, the alarms sound for the emergency. How else to end but with a funeral: “Funerale di Un Contadino” (Funeral of a Farmer), to be precise. Pomp and theatre characterise this Latin style song with a bit of a crisis thrown in in the middle. It’s another angle, and its theme reflects the necroscape of the title, but it’s almost too conventional to close this most unique and creative album.
I’m a convert to microtonal psychoacoustics after listening to “Necroscape”. The thirteen captivating pieces are divided up by their difference, with differences in the pieces as every piece of juice is extracted from the “percussive strategies” – drums to you and me – the violin, the multi-ranging electronics and those outerworldly vocals. Full of mind-numbing twists and turns, a high degree of open-mindedness is needed for this one.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)